What is the Duchy of Cornwall?

Homeowners are angry at the Duchy of Cornwall's plans to build in their Kent market town. But what is the Duchy and who owns it?

DORCHESTER, DORSET - JUNE 27: King Charles III reacts after he  and Queen Camilla unveil the plague for the Queen Mother Square and Royal Pavillion as they visit Poundbury at Poundbury on June 27, 2023 in Dorchester, Dorset. The King and Queen are visiting the The Duchy of Cornwall's Poundbury development to view a new bronze relief and to open The Duke of Edinburgh Garden. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
The King during a visit to the Duchy of Cornwall's Poundbury development in Dorset last year. (Getty Images)

Homeowners are angry at the King Charles’s plans to build thousands of properties in their Kent market town.

The plans were created when Charles previously owned the Duchy of Cornwall estate when he was Prince of Wales. The Telegraph reported the duchy has been accused of “swallowing up historic villages into one urban mass” with its proposal – which is subject to planning permission – to build 2,500 homes on agricultural land in Faversham.

The duchy, the paper reported, argued the plans will deliver sustainable homes and address housing shortages in the area.

But what is the Duchy of Cornwall? Here, Yahoo News UK explains.

What is the Duchy of Cornwall?

The Duchy of Cornwall is a portfolio of land, property and investments valued at more than £1bn. It provides an income for the heir to the throne, covering the cost of their public and private lives.

The estate is not restricted to the county of Cornwall, as the name might suggest. As the Duchy of Cornwall website explains, it covers “52,449 hectares of land across 20 counties, mostly in the south west of England. It comprises arable and livestock farms, residential and commercial properties, as well as forests, rivers, quarries, and coastline.” This includes the Oval cricket ground in central London.

The duchy’s responsibility is “to manage this estate in a way that is sustainable, financially viable and of meaningful value to the local community”.

Who owns the Duchy of Cornwall?

Established by Edward III in 1337, a charter ruled that each future Duke of Cornwall – i.e. the owner of the Duchy of Cornwall estate - would be the eldest surviving son of the monarch and heir to the throne.

That means Prince William currently owns the Duchy of Cornwall as the 25th duke in the estate’s history. He inherited the landed estate after the death of his grandmother, the late Queen, in 2022, and the accession of his father, the King, and is now entitled to its surplus profits every year.

His first official engagement as Duke of Cornwall was in November 2022, when he visited Newquay Orchard, which offers environmental education, employability training and community events.

Last year, it was reported William received a private income from the Duchy of Cornwall of nearly £6m. He was criticised for not publishing an annual report in his first year as heir to the throne.

Prince William inherited the Duchy of Cornwall estate when his father became King. (PA)
Prince William inherited the Duchy of Cornwall estate when his father became king. (PA)

What recent projects has it been involved in?

William, upon inheriting the Duchy of Cornwall, described wanting to make a difference in his new role and committed to building social housing.

“I am committed to the cause of tackling climate change and I am proud of the estate’s efforts to contribute to this challenge,” he previously said. “If we can also help respond to social challenges such as mental health and homelessness, I will feel my term as duke has been worthwhile."

In February, William announced plans to build 24 homes in Nansledan, Newquay, with “wrap around support” for local people experiencing homelessness to create a path to a permanent home.

However, anti-monarchy campaign group Republic criticised the “very limited” scope of the scheme, which it pointed out will earn profit for William.

Graham Smith, of Republic, said: “The country will spend at least £3.4bn on the monarchy over the next decade. That’s money that could be invested in homes for those who most need them, instead of two dozen palatial homes for one family."

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